Greening The Desert
Applying natural farming techniques in Africa
an interview with Masanobu Fukuoka, by Robert and Diane Gilman
One of the articles inSustainable Habitat (IC#14) Autumn 1986, Page 37Copyright (c)1986, 1997 by Context Institute|To order this issue ...
Masanobu Fukuoka is another of the major pioneers of sustainable agriculture who came tothe 2nd International Permaculture Conference. We spoke with him a few days before theconference while he was visiting the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Port Townsend,Washington.
He likes to say of himself that he has no knowledge, but his books, including
The Natural Way of Farming
illustrate that he at least has wisdom. His farming method involves no tillage, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no weeding, no pruning, and remarkably little labor! He accomplishes all this (and high yields) by careful timing of his seeding and careful combinations of plants (polyculture). In short, he has brought the practical art of working with nature to a high level of refinement.
In this interview, he describes how his natural farming methods might be applied to theworld's deserts, based on his experience in Africa during 1985. Translation assistance for theinterview was provided by Katsuyuki Shibata and Hizuru Aoyama.
What have you learned in your 50 years of work about what people could do withtheir agriculture?
I am a small man, as you can see, but I came to the States with a very bigintention. This small man becomes smaller and smaller, and won't last very long, so I'd like toshare my idea from 50 years ago. My dream is just like a balloon. It could get smaller andsmaller, or it could get bigger and bigger. If it could be said in a brief way, it could be said asthe word "nothingness." In a larger way it could wrap the entire earth.I live on a small mountain doing farming. I don't have any knowledge, I don't do anything.My way of farming is no cultivation, no fertilizer, no chemicals. Ten years ago my book,
was published by Rodale Press in the United States. From that point Icouldn't just sleep in the mountains. Seven years ago I took an airplane for the first time in mylife and went to California, Boston, New York City. I was surprised because I thought theUnited States was full of green everywhere, but it looked like death land to me.Then I talked to the head of the desert department at the United Nations about my naturalfarming. He asked me if my natural farming could change the desert of Iraq. He told me todevelop the way of changing the desert to green. At that point I thought that I was a poor farmer and I had no power and no knowledge, so I told him that I couldn't. But from then Istarted thinking that my task is working on the desert.